Moving to a new regime
Under the aquaculture legislative reforms marine farms must follow the same resource consent processes that are required any other activity in the coastal marine area. This means that as of 1 October 2011, applications for new aquaculture activities can be made subject to the provisions of the relevant regional coastal plan.
Councils can still identify areas where aquaculture activities cannot occur, and include provisions in their regional coastal plans to manage aquaculture. Some councils will need to undertake additional planning work to identify suitable areas for aquaculture and enable resource consent applications to be made in areas not previously allowed.
Learn more at Managing demand in the coastal marine area.
Why changes were made
Aquaculture planning and consenting processes are generally managed by regional councils under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). The previous aquaculture regulatory regime was intended to help councils manage the increasing demand for space for aquaculture while still enabling the industry to develop. It introduced a requirement that aquaculture could only take place within AMAs, and that these had to be identified in regional coastal plans after consultation with the public and marine farming industry.
Creating AMAs was a complex, lengthy and expensive process. The result was that, under the 2004 regulatory regime, very little additional water space was made available for aquaculture.
Changes have been made to both the RMA and the Fisheries Act 1996 to streamline planning and consenting processes and to enhance the characteristics of coastal permits for aquaculture. Marine farmers must follow the same resource consent processes that are required for any other activity in the coastal marine area.
Additional changes for applications include:
- Coastal permits for aquaculture are to have a minimum term of 20 years (unless a shorter term is requested by the applicant or is required to manage effects). Permits lapse after three years if the consent is not used.
- Regional coastal plans are no longer able to authorise aquaculture activities in the coastal marine area as ‘permitted activities’. This ensures that a resource consent application is made and triggers the decision-making process that tests for undue adverse effects on commercial, customary or recreational fishers (UAE test). Go here to learn more about the UAE test.
- The UAE test has been better integrated with the RMA consent processes.
- Aquaculture applicants are able to try to negotiate a ‘pre-request aquaculture agreement’ with the relevant commercial fishing quota holders before the UAE test is carried out. The advantage is that quota management stocks (QMS) that have been subject to a pre-request aquaculture agreement are not allowed to be considered by the Ministry of Fisheries for an aquaculture decision over the same area.
- Existing marine farm consent holders will continue to be protected under the RMA and have priority over other applications when they apply for their consents to continue operating (including species changes if in the same space).
- Concurrent plan change requests and consent applications will be able to be made.
Existing marine farms
Existing marine farms will no longer be called ‘deemed AMAs’ and will simply revert to being farms with resource consents, with no loss of rights or certainty.
Outstanding marine farm applications will generally be allowed to proceed from the date the aquaculture legislative reforms come into effect on 1 October 2011. This includes the last remaining pre-moratorium applications (applications notified before 28 November 2001), the ‘frozen’ applications (which were lodged but not notified before the moratorium in 2001), and applications made between 1 January 2005 and 9 May 2006 which are known as ‘SMW type’ applications.
All applications which can continue to be processed will be deemed to be lodged on 1 October 2011 in the order in which they were originally received.
Frozen applications in areas where aquaculture is prohibited in a regional coastal plan, however, will not be able to proceed unless the prohibition is removed via a plan change. These applications will be cancelled on 31 December 2014 if a plan change has not been made by that time.